Nanotechnology Could Lead to Bionic Plants


               Plants are already very useful to our planet; they produce oxygen, they are a food source, natural water filters and they add to the natural beauty. However, if scientists from the Massachusetts Institue of Technology are successful in their current experiments with nanotechnology and plants, they could be used for a lot more. 

Plants are very favourable for use in nanotechnology because they are stable in outside conditions, they can repair themselves, and they provide their own power (with photosynthesis) and regulate their water distribution. Because of their energy producing abilities the researchers at MIT are currently trying to harness the power of the chloroplasts in the cells of plants. If they are able to obtain this energy properly, plants could be developed to be monitors of environmental pollution, pesticides, fungal infections, or monitor exposure to bacterial toxins. 

It is not the plants themselves that the research team has been trying to use for their experiments with photosynthetic energy, but rather the individual chloroplasts. The chloroplasts are removed from ordinary plant stems, but still have all the machinery needed for photosynthesis and producing the organic electricity that allows plants to build sugars. However, once removed from the plant, the chloroplasts begin to degrade due to demage of the light and oxygen on the photosynthetic proteins. Now with further research, the scientists are able to insert cerium oxide nanoparticles into the chloroplasts and wrap them in polyacrylic acid, decreasing their damage from the outside dramatically.

Once the research team was able to manage the damage done on the outside of the plants to the chloroplasts, they found that if they insert these “super” chloroplasts into the cells of a regular flowering plant (scientfic name Arabidopsis thaliana) they can increase the photosynthetic electron flow by 30 percent. With further work, it is these plants that could be grown with the super chloroplasts inside them that would create an abundance of energy. Scientists have discovered that a carbon nanotube could be insterted. Along with the heightened electron flow these carbon nanotubes would become able to sense free radicals or signaling molecules in real time, that are usually very hard to detect; thus creating plants that monitor environmental changes as listed above.


Personal Opinion:

I think if done correctly these scientific advances could lead to great disoveries and move us forward into the field of plantnanobiotics. Although it may be difficult if we could find a way to grow plants with modifications that could monitor possibly important environmental changes, while being safe for the environment and self reproducing it could be a revolutionary way to use plants to our advantage. Not to mention catching possibly dangerous changes in fungal infections, environmental pollution or bacterial toxins early so that they can be prevented.

Source of Story:  Science Daily

Original Sources: Nature Materials Study,  Massachusetts Institue Technology

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One Response to Nanotechnology Could Lead to Bionic Plants

  1. Last but not least your contribution, Michelle!. Nice post.

    I am going to comment on your work according to the assessment criteria established for this blog (which have been already used to grade your schoolmates).

    > Basic structure.- “Title” is OK. “Images”, it deserves some credits in the caption (including the source). “Links”, Ok. “Categories”, you should choose one from the popup menu, over the tag cloud (the post cannot remain as ‘uncategorized’) .

    > Main text.- Information in your post is well written and properly organized BUT it follows the journalistic report too closely (near the plagiarism line). That’s why you should’t have reached top marks here.

    > Original source.- A recent academic peer-reviewed paper must back up every piece of scientific news in this blog. So, 3 out of ten points are related to this aspect (to locate and select some data from it). The location was trivial in this case: the complete Journal Reference and the direct link was at the bottom of your journalistic source. They even state that “The above story is based on materials provided by MIT”. You should have written something related to the original source in Nature. You have at your disposal:
    – The main ideas in the Abstract
    – Some Figures (‘At a glance’ section, low image resolution). If you copy text form this figures (i.e. Enhanced photosynthetic activity of isolated chloroplasts with SWNT–NC) Google will take you to the full size figure and legend –Fig 4).
    – a pdf file with Supplementary information.

    Could you explain something selected from Figure 4, for instances plot “d”?

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